This is the second in my “Rules to Live By” series. Like every other professional, in every other field, over the years I’ve picked up a lot of things that make my life easier, or better, both professionally and personally. Most of these things can be summarized in a sentence or two, and I’ve decided to call them “Rules to Live By”. As much as any other reason, they are here to remind myself of things that I’ve decided to believe in, even if I don’t feel like it one day.
I’m no more important than you are.
Regardless of rank, position or title, my life is no more important than yours. You are just as much a person as I am. My concerns are no more important to me than your concerns are to you.
Sometimes this is a really tough pill to swallow. It’s easy to minimize someone else’s accomplishments, fears and struggles in comparison to my own, especially if those fears and struggles of yours are causing you to act in a way I don’t appreciate. Recognizing that you might be facing issues of your own has really helped me remember that people aren’t intentionally mean-spirited. I know that when I am stressed by something that it can cause me to act in a way I wouldn’t normally act, and other people are no different.
Let me take it a step further now. My concerns should be no more important to me than your concerns are to me. What does this mean? Does it mean I need to solve your problems or be concerned with everything that concerns you?
The short answer: yes.
The slightly longer answer is, well, slightly longer. Obviously no single human can take on the cares of the world, or even the cares of their small subset of the world. But I need to be willing to do whatever I can do for each individual in my life.
I’ve gotten to the point where it is almost (almost) second nature for me to recognize that you are just as important as I am in the grand scope of the entire universe. It’s gotten pretty easy for me to see how your concerns are as important to you as mine are to me, but I have to confess that I struggle every day to concern myself with your issues.
How can I put that much energy into someone else? Why should I bother? Sure, I want to be a nice guy to my family (parents, sister, in-laws, etc.) and friends, but I have my own little family (wife and kids) to take care of, and more than my fair share of struggles. Surely you don’t expect me to take on the cares of everyone I meet. Why would I do that?
Call it a spiritual principle, karma, a law of the universe, or whatever you wish, but I’ve found that my life is better when I put this into practice.
When I hold the door for the man coming up behind me; when I stop what I’m doing to help a mother with her arms full of infant, toddler, shopping bags and whatever else mothers carry; when I help my 87-year-old grandfather up from his chair or down the steps; when I listen to some spill their guts on how someone else has hurt them; when I stop what I am doing to help a coworker through a difficult problem; or when I give a McDonald’s bag to the homeless guy on the corner of Market and 2nd Street there always seems to be a reward. Maybe my problems get smaller, or some even go away altogether. Maybe someone unexpectedly does something for me. Or maybe I just feel like a made a little difference to someone for a while.
So, my own personal goal is to, whenever feasible, do what I can for other people. I certainly don’t always want to, but I know I will later regret it if I don’t, because I am no more important than you are.